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Cool hand LaRoche a quiet leader on Nationals

Veteran first baseman respected by teammates for his presence in clubhouse, performance

WASHINGTON -- Infielder Kevin Frandsen sits next to Adam LaRoche in the Nationals' clubhouse, and it didn't take long for Frandsen to figure out the type of person LaRoche is. Frandsen called LaRoche a great human being who is always calm.

"It's everything you would hope a veteran would be -- just cool, calm, collected all the time," Frandsen said. "It doesn't matter whether it's playing a baseball game or taking about life or talking about some situation that's happened, he is consistent. He is the same person. I feel you really thrive off that."

Teammate Bryce Harper said that LaRoche doesn't say much, but when he talks, people take his words seriously. LaRoche is a quiet leader who is willing to help anyone on the team.

"The less he says, the more you get," Harper said. "To me, he says so little. When he does say something, you are like, 'Ah, man, that's right.' … He is a lot of fun to be around, hanging out and going out, going to dinner and stuff like that. He is a great person. He is definitely one of the leaders in this clubhouse. Everybody looks at him that way."

LaRoche is not fond of talking about himself. He declined to call himself a leader. He is not a rah-rah type. When LaRoche talks to the media, for example, he speaks very softly, to the point where reporters have to hold their recorders very close to his mouth.

"I don't get real emotional, and I don't blow guys up and do it publicly," LaRoche said. "When needed, I like to pull guys aside and try to help them when they screw up, or pat them on the back. If you treat people right, I think people respect that. That's something I've worked hard at doing my whole career, and understanding that there [are] more important things out there than baseball."

Nats first baseman Tyler Moore is one guy LaRoche has helped over the years.

"For me personally, he cares about the young guys," Moore said. "He is willing to talk to you. He is willing to give some of the wisdom he has, and that's huge for us. He has been a leader ever since he has been here."

Then there's LaRoche the family man. There is not a day that goes by when his son, Drake, is not by his side at Nationals Park. In fact, Drake is considered the 26th man on the team. There are also days when LaRoche's daughter, Montana, is at the ballpark as well.

"They are so polite, so mature for their age," Frandsen said. "The way they think, they talk, they are calm. It's the LaRoche way."

LaRoche has done things his way on the field, especially this year. Besides being one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball, LaRoche is one of the most productive hitters on the Nationals, leading the team in home runs (26) and RBIs (92). It marked the fourth time in his career that LaRoche has driven in at least 90 runs. But don't think LaRoche is satisfied with his season. He believes he left too many runners on base.

"I had a month or two stretch where it was really rough," LaRoche said. "Outside of that, it has been pretty steady. As far as driving in runs, I still felt I should have driven in a lot more with the guys I had in front of me. I don't think it was great as far as driving guys in."

Tell that to the Dodgers. LaRoche's best game of the year occurred Sept. 3 against Los Angeles. He didn't start that game because of the flu and back tightness. LaRoche entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch-hitter and ended up driving in five runs in the game.

There is a strong possibility LaRoche will not be driving in runs for Washington next year, because they may have to make room for Ryan Zimmerman to play first base. LaRoche and the Nats have a mutual option for 2015 worth $15 million.

"I think he is going to be an outstanding first baseman. I said that last year," LaRoche said about Zimmerman. "He has one of the best gloves I've ever seen. He is an athlete. When the time comes, whether it's next year or the following year or this postseason, he can handle that bag for sure."

There's LaRoche again showing his calm demeanor, even though Zimmerman could take his position from him next year.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Adam LaRoche